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7 surprising things that make us happy

 In Happiness, Insights, Positivity, Realizer Blog, Science

I recently discovered the World Database of Happiness, and the Journal of Happiness Studies.

Who knew there were so many people in white coats prodding people and asking them how happy they are now? And now? And how about if I prod you here?

Here are some of the surprising things that make us happy.

  • An interest in politics. This one is very surprising as politics is so damn depressing. Perhaps its indicative of people with an interest in the world around them.
  • Living in a country with gender equality. Makes men and women happier.
  • Drinking (in moderation). Good news for those of us who appreciate the odd tipple.
  • Thinking you are good looking, (as opposed to being good looking). Easy win here, never look in the mirror.
  • Giving your money away, or spending it on others.
  • Spending your money on experiences, not material things. We get very easily used to new “things” but experiences can create a lifetime of memories – and after all, our judgement of our happiness is basically like taking a gut feel measure on the weight of positive vs negative memories.
  • Not having to commute (commuting is one of the most stressful experiences of modern life). My take on this is actually about uncertainty. Those of us lucky enough to commute on the Manly Ferry in Sydney, which is almost always on time, takes exactly half an hour, and sails through national park and then past the Opera House and Harbour Bridge…we tend to enjoy our commute. But put me in a car when I am never sure whether it will take 30 mins or 90 mins, and the uncertainty would kill me.

But the top 5 drivers of happiness are…

Overall, through my research the things that do make us happy differ slightly for men and women, but the basic list is, in order of importance:

  1. Being married or in a relationship
  2. The amount of time you spend with friends and family, and the quality of your friendships
  3. Your health, particularly being free from serious and long term pain
  4. The amount of freedom and choice you feel
  5. The amount of financial control and confidence you have, although some studies show that once you have enough money to satisfy your basic needs, any more doesn’t improve things.

As Dan Gilbert and Michael Norton have pointed out we humans aren’t brilliant at predicting what will make us happy. We often chase the wrong things. Here’s a way of finding out your own happiness drivers using a bit of experimental science on yourself.

Posted by Rob Pyne. If you like this content subscribe to my blog (box on the right) or follow me on twitter.